UN envoy responds to NLD letter-“Mr Gambari said in his letter that the UN shared our concerns.”

UN envoy responds to NLD letter
Jan 29, 2009 (DVB)–The National League for Democracy has received a response from United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to its letter regarding the release of political prisoners and the need for inclusive political reform.

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win said the party had sent a letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in September last year and received the response from Gambari about two weeks ago.
“In our letter, we expressed our concern about the two main objectives we are trying to achieve; to free all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to bring about political reform in which all parties and ethnic groups can participate,” Nyan Win said.
“Mr Gambari said in his letter that the UN shared our concerns.”
The letter did not mention the special envoy’s planned trip to Burma on 31 January or the 2010 elections, which the NLD has said they will not discuss.
Dr Thaung Tun of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma said he did not have high expectations of Gambari’s upcoming visit.
“On the question of whether the SPDC will follow the steps suggested by Mr. Gambari, we are now seeing more arrests and long prison sentences on political dissidents,” Dr Thaung Tun said.
“Mr Gambari should draw up plans prior to his visit to Burma to decide who he should be seeing and how much time he will spend there,” he advised.
“He should also put in effort for direct meeting with top leaders of the NLD and also general Than Shwe on the SPDC side,” he said.
“At the very least, we would expect him to hear the opinions of the NLD and the SPDC by the end of his trip. Apart from that, we can’t expect anything much.”

Suu Kyi, Gambari Likely to Meet: NLD

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will probably meet with United Nations Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari during his forthcoming visit to Burma, her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said on Thursday.

NLD spokesperson Win Naing told The Irrawaddy that the NLD expected its leader to meet with Gambari, and it hoped the Nigerian diplomat would discuss meaningful issues and perhaps achieve a tangible breakthrough of some type during his visit.“UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN envoy won’t visit unless there is a sign of progress in Burma,” he said. “And then the UN announced Mr Gambari’s trip—it seems there is something in hand for the envoy. In this situation, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi could meet Mr Gambari.”
The UN said on Monday that Gambari would visit Burma at the end of this month. continue http://www.irrawaddy.org/highlight.php?art_id=15029

Veteran Shan Leaders Plan New Political Party

By MIN LWIN Thursday, January 29, 2009
A group of veteran politicians, some of whom were active in Burmese politics in the late 1940s, has announced plans to found a new national party to contest the 2010 general election.

One of their leaders, Shwe Ohn, now in his late 80s, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the group was waiting for the enactment of the election law before announcing details of the new party’s mission. The new political force would be called the Union Democratic Alliance Party and membership would be open to all of Burma’s nationalities.

Shan ethnic leader Shwe Ohn said he hoped the party would be approved by Burma’s military council and its head, Snr-Gen Than Shwe.
Shwe Ohn is one of six founding members, who include author Kyaw Win Maung.

Some of them worked for the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League, the main political party in Burma after World War II, and the League for Democracy and Peace led by former Prime Minister U Nu in the late 1980s.

Shwe Ohn, a contemporary of Burma’s post-war leader Aung San, was a journalist and observer at the 1947 Panglong conference that created the Union of Burma.

During the regime of dictator Ne Win, Shwe Ohn stayed out of politics, although he kept in touch with the veteran political community.

After the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, Shwe Ohn founded the Shan State People’s Freedom League for Democracy, which forged a political alliance with the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The party was later deregistered by the junta.

Shwe Ohn was also a patron of the banned coalition of ethnic political parties known as the United Nationalities League for Democracy.

In 1993, Shwe Ohn was arrested and detained for one year after criticizing the military- sponsored National Convention.

In February 2005, he was arrested at a gathering of Shan leaders in Taunggyi, Shan State, where the formation of a “genuine federal union,” uniting all ethnic groups, was discussed.

Shwe Ohn was released, but several other Shan leaders at the meeting, including Hkun Htun Oo of the Shan National League for Democracy, the second most successful party in the 1990 election, were sentenced to prison terms of between 75 and 106 years. Hkun Htun Oo, 64, was given a 93-year sentence.


‘Illegal Immigrants’? Who’s Threatening Whom


2 pages
The issue of migrants has returned as a security concern in Thailand, where the government has responded to reports that Thai officials were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Rohingya refugees by vowing to crack down on “illegal migrants.”

Not for the first time, Thailand’s treatment of migrants has become a focus of international attention. Last year, 54 Burmese workers suffocated to death while they were being transported in a sealed truck to the Thai resort island of Phuket. That incident was blamed on the driver, who failed to ensure that the vehicle was properly ventilated. This time, Thai authorities have been faulted for allegedly towing boatloads of Rohingya out to sea without adequate food or water.

While the exact circumstances surrounding this latest incident are still under investigation, it is clear that, despite the official rhetoric, Thailand’s security fears are far less serious than those of the migrants, whose very lives are at risk from the moment they enter the country.

This danger does not derive simply from accidents or even from abuses at the hands of officials, but rather from the juridical-political treatment of migrant workers, who fit into a category of disposable labor created by the state-business alliance. That is why millions of Burmese migrants are able to enter the Thai workforce through the back door, only to be declared a “threat” when they are not needed. continue

Monthly report: Living between two fires: villager opinions on armed insurgency

January 29, 2009
I. Introduction
The mountains and thick jungle of the area between Mon Stat’s southern Ye Township and northern Yebyu District in northern Tenasserim Division make it an ideal staging ground for armed rebels. Burma’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government’s desire to fully control the countryside – a desire strengthened by the proximity of gas pipelines – have lead to intense militarization of countryside as the government fights to pacify the area. The high concentration of SPDC battalions and the scorched earth tactics they employ in their operations against rebels means that the area is consistently the site of the worst human rights violations on Burma’s southern peninsula.


In November, HURFOM extensively documented abuses committed by SPDC army battalions in the Ye and Tavoy. This report continues to focus on the region, and provides an update on SPDC abuses documented since November. The primary focus of this report, however, is instead on the relationship between armed rebels in the area and the villagers upon whose support they depend. After first describing armed groups in the area, it focuses of the group that has been most active lately, known after its leader Nai Chan Dein. Nai Chan Dein has developed a fearsome reputation amongst both the SPDC army he fights and the villagers he heavily taxes; for many villagers, he is to be feared as much as SPDC battalions. Life in parts of Ye and Tavoy, then, requires a delicate balancing act as villagers work to avoid abuse from both sides. “We are normal people who have to be afraid of both groups,” a villager in Tavoy told HURFOM. “Between the two groups, we have no chance.”
The bulk of this report provides forum for villagers to air opinions on the Nai Chan Dein group and armed resistance in general. Responses are selected from nearly 50 interviews conducted during January with current residents in Ye and Tavoy, as well as former residents who have since fled. This report should not be taken as an opinion survey, however, for its sample size is too small and its subject selection necessarily biased. Sources quoted in this report are, for safety’s sake, only subjects willing to run the risk of speaking with announced reporters. Instead, the point of this report is give voice to people on whose behalf war is ostensibly being waged.

II. Mon Rebels, and abuse

A. Fertile forests, for farmers and fighting

Average income in southern Ye Township in Mon State and northern Tavoy District in Tenasserim Division is low, and many people survive on just 20,000 to 25,000 kyat a month ($16 to $20 USD). The area’s many betel nut and rubber plantations are relatively bountiful, however, and economic circumstances for the area’s primarily ethnic Mon, Karen and Tavoyan residents are comparatively strong. Indeed, employment opportunities – and deliberate resettlement efforts by SPDC battalions – have drawn increasing numbers of ethnic Burmans to the area. The mountains and jungle in the area also mean that it remains a place in which armed insurgents continue to operate. Until the mid 1990s, at least thirteen groups conducted operations in the area though most have now disbanded or signed ceasefire agreements with the SPDC, most notably the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) in 1995. The MNLA is the armed wing of the largest Mon political party, the New Mon Start Party (NMSP).

Read all http://www.rehmonnya.org/data/MFreport-Jan09.pdf


People will be forced to support SPDC parties in 2010 Elections- HURFORM

January 29, 2009
In Mon State and other parts of Burma, the local authorities from the ruling military regime have started ‘public relations’ activities to encourage the people to support government-supported political parties in coming 2010 Elections.
Amid international and domestic pressure to engage in genuine political dialogue, the SPDC will move on with its 7-points roadmap to “disciplined democracy.” By learning lessons from its loss in the 1990 Elections, the regime plans to guarantee its own political parties win 2010.
SPDC authorities in Mon State are traveling from one village tract to another and mobilizing village headmen, fire brigades, government administrative departments and civilian groups like the Union Solidarity and Development association to prepare for the election.
Similarly to the un-democratic referendum that confirmed an un-democratic constitution in May, the general people will be forced to vote government parties in the elections. Un-free and unfair elections will be held, and the regime will win.
The elections may be called “democratic,” but the people cannot foresee political freedom and the people will still not have human rights or democracy.


11 villagers remain detained after Karen rebel steals gun from army

January 28, 2009
HURFOM: Eleven villagers are being detained as Burmese soldiers attempt to retrieve a pistol stolen by a Karen rebel in Lamine Township, Mon State.
In the second week of January, Military Operations Management Command No. 19, lead by military column commander Khin Maung Cho, arrested eleven villagers from Kanine Ka Moke village Lamine Township, Mon State.
“All of the victims are innocent people,” said a man, 36, from Kanine Ka Moke village. “There are four men and seven women, including a six year old girl and a seventy year old man.” As of January 27th, Light Infantry Battalion No. 587 was still holding all 11 villagers. HURFOM could not, however, confirm how they are being treated.
The arrests followed the theft of a pistol from captain Aung Win Zaw of LIB No. 597 in the third week of December. According to a Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) soldier in the area, the 9 mm gun was snatched from the captain’s hip as he walked home. According to the KNLA soldier, as well as HURFOM’s field reporter in the area, a soldier from Column 4 of KNLA Battalion 16, Brigade 6, stole the gun.
LIB No. 587 has been trying to retrieve the pistol ever since, say local sources. According to a villager, Khin Maung Cho has been threatening villagers. “If I don’t get the gun back,” a villager quoted him as saying, “all of you will be put in jail.”

Secret UN Deals may entice Myanmar(Burma)

Asia Times
By Brian McCartan

CHIANG MAI – New hopes are rising that the goodwill engendered by the joint United Nations and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) relief effort for Cyclone Nargis last year can be parlayed into greater multilateral access to the isolated and impoverished country through a possible aid-for-reform deal.

United Nations special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari’s seventh visit to the country is scheduled for this week and will be closely watched by international observers. Gambari said previously that significant steps, such as the release of political prisoners and moves towards genuine free and fair elections in 2010, would need to be taken before he would return to Myanmar.
That stand was a diplomatic response to junta leader Senior General Than Shwe’s refusal to meet with the envoy during his last two visits to the country. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi also declined to see Gambari during his most recent visit in August. Now there is speculation that Gambari aims to take a new diplomatic tack by dangling offers of development assistance in exchange for political reforms, including Suu Kyi’s and other political prisoners release, and the inclusion of opposition parties in the upcoming polls.

A December 28 editorial in the Washington Post citing unnamed UN officials said “special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has proposed that nations offer Burma [Myanmar] financial incentives to free more than 2,000 political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and to open the country to democratic change”. A confidential document outlining the strategy was presented to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in November, according to the Washington Post.

A former UN official who claims to have seen the secret document, however, downplays those claims. While many hope the joint cyclone relief effort will open access to the rest of the country for badly needed development projects, the idea of holding out aid as a “reward” for political reforms runs counter to humanitarian norms that govern relief and development operations, he said.

What the document definitely does call for is increasing development assistance for projects aimed at Myanmar’s most vulnerable and impoverished people, but not direct disbursements to the junta, the former UN official says. It also proposes that policy reforms are vital, including economic reforms, which, if properly implemented, would improve the investment climate. The UN official says this should not be perceived as a call for foreign direct investment to Myanmar, which is currently sanctioned by both the US and European Union. continue http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/KA30Ae01.html